Weekly output: e-mail hijacking, orphaned apps

Thursday’s delightful snowfall took a chunk out of my productivity this week, like that bothered me all that much. Except it kind of does–Saturday evening, I start my journey to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress. Which means Monday can’t be much of a holiday for me.

2/10/2014: Why the Bad Guys Want Your Email, Yahoo Tech

This was originally going to explain the business models behind e-mail hijacking (I felt vaguely insulted to be told that in most cases, a hijacked e-mail gets used for nothing more ambitious than sending spam) and then critique the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. But my editor said the CFAA parts read like a separate column, and I had to admit he was right. I’ll get back to that, but not next week: There’s a certain gigantic proposed cable merger that calls for my attention first.

USAT orphaned-app column2/16/2014: How to hang on to an orphaned app, USA Today

This was a somewhat shameless case of my taking advantage of the fuss over Flappy Bird (sorry, I don’t care about that game) to address a reader query I’d received months earlier about a different app. But Apple’s decision to boot a Bitcoin-wallet app from the App Store also factored into the timing here. The tip here about how developers keep less of the price of an app sold at the Mac App Store revisits a topic I’d last addressed in a January 2011 Post blog post.

At Sulia, I shared two sets of quotes from a great panel discussion among teenage social-media users led by my Yahoo Tech colleague Dan Tynan, recounted a tech startup’s testimony about its experience beating a patent troll in court, listed two questions left up in the air about Comcast’s proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable, complained about NBC Washington’s reportedly strong but now-unwatchable over-the-air signal, and provided an update about the fake Facebook account I’d set up when writing a privacy cheat sheet about the social network for Yahoo.

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Weekly output: SideCar, Internet sales taxes, group-play apps, Do Not Call, Android screen lock

Nothing too dramatic this week, but first thing Monday morning I’m on the plane to SFO for two conferences: Influence HR on Monday, where I’m speaking on a panel about media relations (disclosure: the organizers are picking up my airfare), and Google I/O Wednesday through Friday.

SideCar DisCo post5/6/2013: SideCar Approaches A Regulatory On-Ramp, Disruptive Competition Project

This ride-sharing service aims to match drivers with time to spare on their existing routes with people heading in the same general direction. The D.C. Taxi Commission, along with other local regulators, sees it as an illegal taxi service. SideCar is pleading its case with the public but also with elected representatives: my interview with CEO Sunil Paul was delayed 45 minutes because he was finishing up a breakfast meeting with Ward 3 city councilmember Mary Cheh.

5/8/2013: Expert: Online sales tax would make real difference to main street, Voice of Russia American Edition

Harvard Business School professor Benjamin G. Edelman and I talked about the Marketplace Fairness Act, the bill that would require most Internet retailers to collect sales taxes for states that simplify their tax regimes.

5/10/2013: Group-Playback Apps Let You Choose Your Own Copyright Adventure, Disruptive Competition Project

I thought there might be an interesting piece about the copyright-law implications of Samsung’s Group Play app, which lets you play one song through multiple devices at once; after encountering a similar, Web-based app at the Day of Fosterly event last weekend, I decided there was.

5/12/2013: Will spam calls ever stop?, USA Today

A query on my neighborhood’s mailing list about a clearly illegal telemarketing call we’ve received a couple of times led me to revisit the topic of spam calls–and spam texts. There’s also a tip about two ways to strengthen the pattern-lock option on Android phones.

On Sulia, I noted two unexpectedly gutsy tech-policy bills–one from Sen. John McCain that would basically blow up much of the TV business, another from Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo, Jared Polis and Thomas Massie that would repair the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention clause–and shared Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s low opinion of Congressional tech literacy. I also related news about United Airlines’ upcoming switch from drop-down screens to streaming media on its A319s and A320s, at the cost of its Channel 9 air-traffic-control audio. And I wrote a sponsored post about Betabeat’s startup-pitch webisode series that, apparently, almost nobody read.

Why are random spammy sites pointing to here?

Spammy referrersI never mind people reading this blog, but lately I’ve been getting a little antsy over some of the sites that seem to be sending people here. Over the past few days, a motley assortment of spammy-looking pages have been showing up as referers in my stats.

As you can see in the screen grab I took Tuesday morning, most seem to reside at domain names that suggest some sort of substance. But when I’ve clicked through I’ve found nothing but a list of search links, in some cases categorized and in other cases pretty much random. And the searches that I can see in some of those referring links–today, for example, “star hotel roma” and “blog for make money online”–have little to nothing to do with what I write about here.

Spam happens because people think that it will help them make money online. But just what kind of business model am I looking at here? The only way I can see the spammers profiting from sending people to my site is if they’ve got a business connection to a WordAds advertiser, but the ads I see have almost always been from name-brand companies–this program is deliberately limited to “high-quality,” national advertisers. So what’s the deal? If you have a theory, I’d like to read about it in the comments.